PITTSBURGH — Le'Veon Bell spent the past two Januarys watching helplessly while the Steelers tried to make a deep postseason run without him. The ever-fluid running back made up for lost time Sunday against the Dolphins.
So did Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, the other members of Pittsburgh's "Big Three," together in the playoffs for the first time.
Pounding away at a defense that hardly seemed interested in stopping him at frigid Heinz Field, Bell ran for a franchise postseason record 167 yards and two scores, and the Steelers overwhelmed the beaten-up, mistake-prone Dolphins 30-12 in their AFC wild-card game Sunday.
"We wanted to go out there and make a statement," Bell said.
Pittsburgh won its eighth straight to set up a visit to AFC West champion Kansas City on Sunday. The Steelers were rolled by the Chiefs 43-14 on Oct. 2.
Bell, Brown and Roethlisberger more than wiped away the bitter aftertaste of a 30-15 whipping at the hands of the Dolphins in mid October. The Steelers led by two touchdowns before the game was 10 minutes old on long passes from Roethlisberger to Brown. Miami never got closer than 11.
"Le'Veon was beastly," said Brown, who finished with five receptions for 124 yards and the two scores. "All day, controlling the line of scrimmage, just running guys over and finding a way to put the ball in the end zone. Any time he's playing like that, we're going to be a hard team to beat."
Bell missed the playoffs each of the past two seasons with knee injuries. In his postseason debut, he broke Hall of Famer Franco Harris' team mark for yards rushing in a playoff game. Harris ran for 158 yards in a Super Bowl win over Minnesota 42 years ago. Bell reached that total by the end of the third quarter.
The Dolphins — given a chance to prove that their first playoff berth in eight years wasn't a fluke despite being outgained and outscored during the regular season — never found a rhythm. The problem wasn't the single-digit wind chill or a vicious hit absorbed by quarterback Matt Moore in the second quarter as much as it was the Steelers. They sacked Moore five times, forced turnovers on three consecutive possessions in the middle of the game and never really let the Dolphins up off the deck.
"It's hard to win when you turn the ball over," said Moore, who completed 29 of 36 passes for 289 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. "In the playoffs, you can't make mistakes, and that's on me."
Roethlisberger wore a walking boot on his right foot after the game. He said it was a precaution after tweaking the ankle while throwing an interception on Pittsburgh's penultimate drive and he would play against the Chiefs.